The Alpha Course is going well at Parker Ford Church, not that there was any doubt about the course. What is remarkable is that cooking for approximately 50 people each week has also been going well.
Part of the reason for the success is the great team that is responsible each week. I’m grateful for the kitchen crew of Ralph Bainbridge, Rob Brunner, Nancy Elliott-Carter, Ginny Imperial, and Stephanie Wanner. Pastor Josh and Carol Doering have also pitched in. Another explanation for the success is the detailed cookbook that comes with the program. The North American edition is filled with popular dinner recipes from all over Canada. I appreciate the calculations for groups of 10, 30, and 100. In addition to the Canadian recipes, some originated in England where the program was started. Not all of these “foreign” recipes translate to the United States.
For example, Alpha’s recipe for Shepherd’s Pie calls for baked beans.
I tried to imagine a Shepherd’s Pie made like chili and smothered with mashed potatoes. I attempted to picture kidney beans or black beans under there. Couldn’t do it. I just can’t embrace baked beans in a Shepherd’s Pie. Instead, I used my Shepherd’s Pie recipe, quadrupling it. I’m glad I did. Upon telling a few diners that Alpha’s recipe called for baked beans, their reaction told me I made the right choice. Still…I’m curious. If I ever try it, I’ll let you know. A similar change from the printed page was required this week. In fact, I can’t actually say that I’ve used any Alpha recipe “as is.”
This past week we served Golden Glazed Chicken, Crisscross Potatoes, and a Mandarin Orange Salad. When people compliment the food, I take note. When they ask for recipes, I know it was a hit. There were five recipe requests, so I told those who asked to read this week’s post!
GOLDEN GLAZED CHICKEN
(click on any image to enlarge it)
The smallest quantity provided in the Alpha cookbook is ten, so I’ve cut that recipe in half, however this still makes sufficient sauce for six chicken breasts. The original recipe called for 2 teaspoons of curry powder. Most people in our “neck of the woods” don’t have an appreciation for curry powder, but I know that it’s a popular spice in Great Britain. I decided to jettison the curry and substitute a combination of spices. It must have worked!
6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (halves)
¼ cup butter
½ cup honey
¼ cup Dijon mustard
1/8 cup mild prepared mustard
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon or lime juice
Preheat oven to 350°.
Place chicken in a baking dish in a single layer and bake in a 350° oven for 15 minutes, until partially cooked.
While the chicken is getting started, in a saucepan (or in a microwave), melt the butter. Add all of the remaining ingredients and whisk until smooth.
Pour over the partially baked chicken. My test batch was only with three chicken breasts, but I made the full amount of sauce for six breasts of chicken, so your's won't look like as much.
One word of caution: Don’t go by the ounces printed on containers of honey. Honey is sold by the pound, and those are not fluid ounces, they are ounces by weight. I found this out when I needed 5 cups of honey for the mass quantities I was making for Alpha. 5 cups would be 5 x 8 oz. = 40 ounces, right? I bought a 16 oz. bottle and a 32 oz. bottle of honey, totaling 48 ounces. When I added the entire larger bottle and half of the smaller one, (40 oz.), it just didn’t seem like enough. I measured the capacity of the larger bottle, and it was only about 2½ cups of liquid! Adding the entire 1 lb. bottle only brought the total up to 3-3/4 cups. I needed another 1 lb. bottle. While Carol Doering was running to Kolb’s Farm Store to buy it, I tasted the sauce and was glad I added more honey!
Return the chicken to the oven and continue to bake for another 30 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165°. I used my new digital thermometer with meat probe, and it worked well, signaling when the internal target temperature had been reached. No more over baked, dry chicken! I recommend basting the chicken with the sauce at least once during baking. Two or three times would be ideal.
If you would like to thicken the sauce, drain it into a saucepan and heat to boiling. Dissolve a teaspoon of cornstarch in cold water and add the mixture all at once, while continuously stirring with a spring whisk. Pour back over chicken or serve as an accompanying sauce on the side.
These potatoes are super simple to make and can be seasoned with your favorite herbs and flavors. Use your imagination!
Baking potatoes (medium), halved lengthwise
Seasonings & herbs of your choice
Scrub the potatoes and cut them in half, lengthwise. Make diagonal slashes 1/8” deep in the cut surface of each potato. Place potatoes, cut side face up, in a baking dish. Brush the cut surfaces with melted butter and sprinkle on the seasonings of your choice.
For my test prep, I used (left to right) Lowry’s Seasoned Salt with parsley flakes, ground thyme with rosemary, paprika with garlic salt, and plain old Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
My favorites were the Lowry’s & parsley, (don’t use too much seasoning salt; it’s potent), and the Kosher salt & pepper (pictured, right). If I would have added a little salt to the thyme and rosemary ones, it could have moved to the top of my list. It also occurred to me that having some spray butter or spray olive oil to finish them when they came out of the oven would have been a good thing.
Bake potatoes in a 350° oven for 60-90 minutes, until they are tender when pierced with a fork. Mine were ready in an hour, but the large quantity made for Alpha took much longer. In fact, we needed the ovens for the chicken, and wound up finishing the potatoes in the microwave, which apart from some momentary panic, was not a problem.
MANDARIN ORANGE SALAD
Another awesomely simple recipe, and it is also awesomely good! You don’t have to have a blender or food processor to make the dressing, but it helps.
1 head lettuce, (I used a mixture of Boston lettuce and spinach)
1 can (11 oz.) mandarin oranges
½ cup chopped pecans
2 green onions, thinly sliced
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ to 1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Toast the chopped pecans in a 350° oven for about 10 minutes. Mix the dressing in a blender or food processor, combining the oil, sugar, vinegar, salt, pepper, and parsley.
Just before serving, mix the salad ingredients and toss with the dressing. If the vinegar and oil have not emulsified, you may need to blend them again just before use. It’s just that simple. Enjoy!